Monday, December 31, 2012

on my mind monday 12.31.12 - the gratitude issue

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” -Albert Schweitzer

Rather than the usual On My Mind Monday post where I go through a bunch of articles that have caught my eye I thought I would write about gratitude.  Mostly because that's what's on my mind right now.  We're at that annual cusp from old year to new.  That time when so many people make resolutions, often unrealistic and undefined.  And by doing so set themselves up to feel bad about themselves later.

So rather that focusing on [insert your favorite resolution here] I thought it might be a good idea to think about gratitude.  And I wanted to share some of my favorite resources and share a couple of articles.  I won't lie and tell you that I live in that blissed out place that is continual gratitude.  I don't.  I sometimes struggle to get there, to get anywhere close to being grateful.  And yet I know I have to very much to be grateful for.

Sometimes we get overwhelmed, sometimes we get lost.  But I have come to believe that by remembering that concept of gratitude and by trying to pay attention to it I am happier overall.  And so I've collected some resources and I have in a gratitude file.  When I need a pick me up that's what I turn to.  I've also decided to try a new tradition.  Recently I saw a post with the picture up above.  It's a gratitude jar.  The concept is pretty simple.  Take a jar, put a gratitude label on it.  Then throughout the year add notes of whatever you are grateful for to the jar.  Come New Year's Eve 2014, open the jar and see what's inside.  I'm excited and looking forward to what this new year will bring.

As we transition to 2013 I hope that whatever the New Year holds for you it also brings happiness, health, joy, and peace.

How To Be Grateful To People We Don't Like - Learning to look at negative situations and focus on the good things we have can help us achieve a transformational shift. Admittedly this is not always easy to do, but sometimes having a resource we can turn to the guide us toward this can be helpful.

Gratefulness.org - A wonderful website offering videos, audios, articles, a virtual labyrinth, and virtual candles you can light. This is one of my favorite resources.

How Gratitude Can Change Your Life - A good article about gratitude with some information about how studies showing how it can improve your life.

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy - A few suggestions for ways to add a gratitude practice to your life.

Stumbling Toward Gratitude - The end of this article sums it up well, " There are no miracles. … There are no long-term quick fixes for happiness, so if you become a more grateful person and you add [these] exercises to your repertoire, you’ll be different six months or a year from now."


And here's a video on gratitude that I found moving.  Thanks to my Aunt for sharing it just when I needed it.



Friday, December 28, 2012

cooking with oregano

Oregano is a flavorful, highly anti-oxidant, perennial herb which is used in a wide variety of cuisines including Italian, Turkish, Lebanese, Greek, and Latin American. Related to the mint familiy, it has a distinctive aroma and taste; the flavor is stronger when it is dried rather than fresh. Oregano gained popularity in the United States after World War II when returning soldiers came back with a taste for it.

If you love to create your own dishes, you will discover that oregano goes well with pizza, lamb, tomato sauces, and cruciform vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini. It blends well with other herb including basil, dried onions, garlic, pepper, parsley, sage, and thyme.

Although oregano is typically dried and sold in jars at grocery stores, it can be purchased fresh or grown in a home garden. Before buying fresh oregano, ensure that it is not showing signs of wilt. Fresh oregano can be kept fresh if it is placed in a plastic bag filled with air and then put in the crisper section of your refrigerator

Mexican oregano, related to vervain, rather than mint, is a distant relative of traditional oregano.  Known also as Mexican marjoram or Mexican wild sage, it has been described by many as having a stronger flavor and somewhat sweeter taste than the common oregano.

How to Use Oregano
  • Select dried or fresh oregano; growing your own oregano is easy as the plants are hardy.
  • There are several varieties of oregano, so decide which one to use. The Italian oregano used in pizza and Italian dishes is most commonly used in American dishes. The Greek variety is often used in seafood and other dishes while the Cuban variety is often used to flavor meats, especially game.
  • Some recipes require whole leaves or crushed oregano. This however, is dependent on the preference of the chef or the other ingredients in the recipe.
  • Do not overcook oregano as this will reduce its flavor; add it to cooking as needed. 
  •  Fresh oregano can be used to flavor or season cold dishes. 
Using Fresh Oregano

When you cook with fresh oregano, you need an approach that is somewhat different from the dried herb. In addition to it's high nutrient profile, providing vitamin K, manganese, iron, and calcium, oregano also has anti-inflammatory properties.  Research suggests that oregano has properties that can relieve the symptoms associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.  You will need to understand how to use its fresh form to enhance your dishes and your health.

  • Fresh oregano is not as concentrated as its dried form, so measure carefully and double or triple the amount if the recipe requires dried oregano. 
  • Dried oregano is usually used when cooking sauces and roasts, but fresh oregano is best suited for seafood or sprinkled on pasta dishes. 
  • Fresh oregano can be substituted for marjoram if necessary. 
  • It is easy to overdo dried or fresh oregano. Therefore, you need to be careful how you apply this spice when you are creating your own recipes. 

Lucas Barnes writes at Plantdex.

Monday, December 24, 2012

on my mind monday 12.24.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Wangari Gardens - Yet another great example of community gardens growing out of unused space.  I love that it was started by a student who envisioned a way to bring a garden to  an area that was previously considered a food desert.  Overcoming bureaucratic red tape and a variety of setbacks what now exists is a beautiful community space.

Farmer's worried about GMO contamination?  USDA says "get insurance." - This article is eye opening on many levels.  Even more so than the issue of GMO contamination, which is huge, is that GMO's do not work.  As the article mentions, we are now breeding superweeds which are roundup resistant, having somehow, mysteriously (read with snark) picked up the trait from the plants which were bred to be roundup resistant.  This is in spite of the fact that Monsanto in the beginning assured farmers that resistance would not be a problem.  Looks like they were wrong on that count.  And if that issue were not bad enough it turns out that we are ruining, depleting, our earth to an unsustainable point by mining minerals needed to make chemical fertilizers.  Time to wake up and stop the chemical cocktail we are pouring on and in our food.

Are your kids eating too much salt? - If you buy package, processed foods, don't read the labels, and eat out frequently chances are you and your kids are getting far too much salt.  Learning to read the label is the first step to controlling in the home sodium intake.  Thinking about where and what you eat when you eat out is next.  For young kids 1,200 mg is considered the recommended limit but some foods can provide a whopping amount of your daily intake.  One example is a two ounce serving of pretzels which could provide up to 900 mg of sodium.  But don't go no sodium either, your body needs it for metabolic function as well as to manufacture digestive fluids.  Moderation, but not avoidance, is definitely the key when it comes to salt.

The year of the liver - Apparently 2013 will be the year that liver makes it's way back into the American diet.  This could be a good thing it's a good protein source that is also high in iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.  Soaking it in milk is one way to temper the flavor for those who are not used to it.  Made into pate it's delicious, but sauteed in onions it's also tasty.  The best choice is to choose liver from pasture raised animals as there is no exposure to GMOs, pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics, or added hormones.

C. Difficile sniffer dog - Those cute little beagles (and other breeds) are everywhere.  Not just roaming the airports in their working dog jackets sniffing out contraband produce, not just detecting diabetes and various types of cancer, but now also identifying cases of a bacterial infection that can be difficult to treat and which may spread rapidly if not contained.  C. difficile can overtake the intestinal environment causing severe pain, cramping, diarrhea and even ulcerations.  With the help of Cliff (there's apparently only one sniffer dog at the moment) detection is quicker and easier.

And this video shows the Minister for Public Health and Sanitation of Kenya at a public briefing.  Kenya has just banned all GMOs while they evaluate their safety.


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photo: mconnors

Thursday, December 20, 2012

the peanut butter issue

The FDA is out to lunch - with yet another case of food poisoning in the news it's clear that those charged with keeping our food supply safe are not doing their job.  The scariest part of this is that in the face of budgetary cuts there are talks of allowing food producers more leeway to self-monitor.  This is putting the fox in charge of the hen house.  If true sanctions and consequences were put into place there might be more attention paid to the safety of the food products.

Fortunately that is happening in at least one situation.  Sunland Inc, the company responsible for manufacturing salmonella-laden peanut butter in the recent outbreak has been closed.  Articles that I have seen indicate that the company was surprised by this move and thought they would be able to re-open by the end of the year.  But after reading the conditions there and the continual disregard for food safety it is good to know that they will not be allowed to continue until they can prove (not just say but prove via inspection) that they have cleaned up their act.  I hope this trend of requiring manufacturers to truly be responsible, and not just say they're following the rules, continues.

And salmonella isn't the only thing found in peanut butter.  Although this article is two years old it mentions rat feces.  I was not able to find specific mention of rat feces allowed in peanut butter (assuming that is part of what the FDA lists as "objectionable matter contributed by rodents") but did find mention of rodent hairs at 1 or more per 100 grams of product being considered an "aesthetic" (their word not mine) defect and possibly actionable.  Also found in peanut butter?  Neurotoxic chemicals.  Peanuts are a highly pesticide residue contaminated crop; this makes choosing organic an important factor for those who choose to eat peanuts and peanut products.

I found it interesting to note that the article also did a side by side taste-test comparison of various peanut butters.  All of them were jarred, most had oil residue floating on the top, and sounded very unappealing from both a taste and visual perspective.  While the article didn't list the ingredients I'm sure that most of them have added fat (thus the extra oil floating at the top), sugar, and salt.  None of which is really needed for peanut butter.

At my local grocery store there is a grind-your-own peanut butter machine.  At $3.99 per pound for organic, unsalted peanuts they sell a relatively creamy, good tasting, fresh smelling product.  Of course there is no way to know if anything has gotten into the peanuts in the machine; this means trusting the grocery store to clean it thoroughly on a regular and frequent basis.

It turns out peanut butter used to be considered a health food and was actually only sold regionally.  Over time this has changed and we now ship the stuff all over the world.  Except for the grind-your-own variety of course.

Over the years peanut butter has increasingly gotten a bad rap, primarily due to allergies.  It's a popular legume though and that makes it difficult to tell people that they should avoid peanuts.  That bad rap, however, is not undeserved.  Part of the health challenge is that peanuts are a highly inflammatory legume.  They also tend to be high in carcinogenic aflatoxins and are frequently contaminated by the aspergillis fungus.  Additionally many health issues, from migraines to candida overgrowth to intestinal disorders are negatively impacted by consumption of peanuts and peanut products.  So while we consider them delicious they should be severely reduced or eliminated from the diet.

For those who can have nuts a healthier choice might be almonds, and almond butter, which is the most alkaline of nuts and has a much lower allergenic profile.


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photo: penarc

Monday, December 17, 2012

on my mind monday 12.17.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Minimum age for energy drinks - While teens may be upset about it I think this is a good idea.  A better idea would be to get rid of these kinds of drinks altogether.  Banned overseas and with some reports linking these drinks to consumer deaths it is not something to take lightly.

Eat for happiness - often we think we're eating for happiness when we're actually eating for pleasure.  Sadly we're also unaware of the effect that this can have on us.  My friend Trudy Scott, Food Mood Expert and author of The Antianxiety Food Solution points out that many people with depression, anxiety, and other neurobiological disorders frequently do better when they change their diet.  Perhaps it's time we all learned to eat for happiness.

Fruit and Veggie Prescription - As the saying goes, 'Let food be thy medicine." And in D.C. providers at one health care clinic are encouraging just that, food as preventive medicine.  I love the thought that people are getting prescriptions which they can use at farmer's markets.  This will hopefully encourage them to return  on a regular basis and to being to use whole foods, fresh foods, as part of their diet.  Hopefully this program will spread across the country.  It is already possible to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or what used to be called food stamps, at farmer's markets.  I believe encouraging people to connect with their local farmers, rather than a fast food joint, the better off everyone will be.

Plastic Pollution - I've written before, here and here about plastic, its impact on our environment and on our health.  We've cut back tremendously on how much we use but it still surrounds us, from our toothbrushes, deodorant containers, freezer bags, and remote controls to the sewing machine, packaging on items we buy, dvd covers, and food containers.  It's very very difficult to get rid of plastic in our life.  This article showing the overwhelming amount of plastic that finds its way into the ocean it mind-boggling.  Time to get Beth Terry's book Plastic Free: How I Kicked The Plastic Habit and How You Can Too to find more ways to bump it up a notch.

Expanding the season: I was happy to see this blurb about more farmer's markets being open for a winter season.  While most people tend to think of farmer's markets as providing fresh spring and summer foods (think lettuces, tomatoes, peas, peppers, strawberries, and such) there is a whole season that has been bypassed.  Farms can, and do, also produce a bounty of fall and winter crops that are so delicious and bursting with nutrients.  Winter squashes, root crops, and citrus fruits are just a few.  If more farmer's markets are able to expand their season it means more sales for the farmer, more fresh, local food for you. It's a win for everyone.

Here's a video of an American farmer talking about his concerns about the state of farming in this country and global climate change.



In addition to the impending publication of The Pantry Principle there are some exciting developments coming up for my newsletter which will be offering some content not found here on the blog.  If you're not already signed up, now's your chance.

photo: mconnors

Thursday, December 13, 2012

homemade holidays

The holidays are here.  We're in the middle of Channukah with Christmas and Kwanzaa are still to come.  If you're looking for a great last minute gift idea here are a couple of prior posts that have some tasty treats.  Packed up in a jar with a pretty ribbon or some decorative fabric these could be great gifts for the holidays.

Granola or Muesli are a great choice.  Because you can flavor it any way you like you can make a wide variety based on just this simple recipe.  Put in a jar with a pretty ribbon or a decorative piece of fabric on top it can make a simple, healthy holiday treat.

Last year I mentioned making vanilla sugar by placing opened vanilla beans into evaporated cane juice crystals and letting it infuse for some time before removing the vanilla bean and packaging up the sugar.  So in a similar vein, but with a twist, this year, I'm suggesting the idea of flavored salt.  I got the idea for this after seeing all the different bottles at the grocery store.  They're rather pricey and yet so simple to make at home.

Tasty Seasoned Salt:

1/2 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried onion
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
generous pinch dried thyme
fresh ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a mortar or a coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious for soups, salads, and on the table as seasoned salt.
I have a coffee grinder clearly marked Not For Coffee and use it for grinding all my herbs and seeds.

Coffee Seasoned Salt:

note: for this one I use the coffee grinder that actually IS for coffee

1/4 cup coarse grind sea salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
generous pinch vanilla powder

Place all ingredients into a mortar or coffee grinder and pulse until blended.
Delicious on desserts, especially if they are chocolate (just a pinch though)
I don't drink coffee but for those who do this apparently is a delicious addition to your cup

Store in small jars (recycled baby food jars are perfect for this)
Use in soups, over salads, or as a seasoning at the table  

These Curried Cashews from Eating Well are very tasty and oh so easy to make.

One last thought, if you're really in a hurry, is to purchase mulling spices at the grocery store.  If you get them in the bulk food section they're very reasonably priced.  Placed into tea pockets, or into cut squares of cheesecloth tied up with kitchen twine, and delivered with a container of cider the recipient can easily make mulled cider whenever they wish.

Whatever you celebrate, whatever your reason for the season, I hope that it is filled with warmth, laughter, love, and joy.  May you all have a happy, healthy holiday season.


photo: mattbuck


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

christmas tree facts

The winter holidays are here.  Decorations are going up.  The wreaths, the lights, the garlands, lots, and lots of tinsel.  And let's not forget the tree.  The Christmas tree, centerpiece of the holiday celebration.  With ornaments and bows up top, presents and goodies below.  The primary symbol of the holiday gathering for many families all across the country.  And every year there is a dilemma; people struggle with the choice for their tree.  Fresh or artificial?

There are a small percentage who use living trees, brought inside in a tub or burlap. They often plant their tree in the yard after the season.  For them there is not usually a dilemma as they will continue to purchase and plant living trees.  For everyone else there's a choice to be made year after year.

Live cut or artificial?  With tens of millions of trees sold every year that decision has an amazing impact.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), a live Christmas tree outweighs an artificial one due to its many environmental and economic benefits.  It goes without saying that our personal environmental stance would include a live cut tree which does not expose you to pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
  • Environmentally friendly, fresh cut trees are a sustainable resource.
  • The trees help clean the air, protect the soil, and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Planting of natural Christmas trees increases the greenery on the planet. The Christmas tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree that is harvested during the season. 
  • The trees are biodegradable; that means they can be reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes.  Nothing is wasted even when these trees are discarded or disposed. By contrast, an artificial tree may contain lead and non-bio-degradable plastics.
  • The industry employs more than 100,000 Americans.
Learn how to care for your fresh cut tree at the NCTA so it will last all season long.


Christmas Tree Facts - An Infographic by CouponRefund.com
Christmas Tree Facts by CouponRefund.com

photo: Lotus Head

Monday, December 10, 2012

on my mind monday 12.10.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

What's in that pork? - The answer is not great.  As I discuss in my forthcoming book, The Pantry Principle, more antibiotics are used in the food animal industry than are used for people.  The challenge is that now this overuse is causing antibiotic-resistant bacteria to appear in the meat.  Which means if you eat it, you may get infected with a bacteria which is resistant to antibiotics.  Not a good thing. While this is not something that will change easily it can and should be changed.  Consider starting with letting Trader Joe's know that you want them to carry antibiotic free pork.

Peru bans GMO Foods - This is a huge step forward in the fight against GMO.  Peru did not simply require GMO foods to be labeled; they banned all of them from the country for a ten year period of time.  This was done in an effort to prevent GMO contamination of native corn and potato species. While I'm not sure which foods are imported from Peru I do plan to find out and see how I might incorporate them into our pantry.

US diets not up to standard - We're not eating as well as we should.  In part because we are surrounded by large numbers of unhealthy foods and because so many bad ingredients are stuffed into our food.  There is something called the Standard American Diet, or SAD.  Unfortunately it is sad and if we continue to eat this way our health will continue to decline.

Boycott Brands - As many of you know Prop37, the initiative to label GMO foods in California was defeated.  They were outspend significantly by the parent companies of brands such as Cascadian Farm Organics, Horizon Organics, and Tostitos Organics.  While organic foods cannot, by law, include GMO ingredients, the parents companies do not want you to know what they are putting into everything else they produce.  But it's hard to know who owns what and how to avoid those brands.  I have some information in my book The Pantry Principle about this issue but the book isn't out yet.  In the meantime print out this wallet card and take it with you to the grocery store.

It's Channukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.  Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a traditional food during this eight day period of time.  For those who have never made them before, here's an easy recipe.  I have one change which is that sometimes I will take 1/3 of the grated, pressed potatoes and blend them into a finer texture which I then mix in with the grated, pressed potatoes.  And for toppings, we prefer applesauce and sour cream.  It's delicious.



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photo: mconnors

Friday, December 7, 2012

top ten reasons to buy grass fed beef

Grass-fed beef is different from the majority of beef products we find in our grocery stores. Free range, pasture raised beef is only raised on grass, not grain. What's the big deal about cattle eating grass and not grain? There are many reasons pasture raised grass-fed beef is better than factory feedlot grain-fed beef.

First, let's step back and take a brief look at our history. For ages, man has existed as hunter gatherers. They ate what they found, foraging for food and hunting animals. The animals they hunted lived off of grass, unless it was some kind of predator, such as a lion. So animals from the wild existed on the native grasses and plants of their surroundings. Their biological makeup evolved around their environment and they were well suited to digesting and processing plant matter; they were very happy doing just that, eating grass all day. We as hunters were very happing eating the foraging animals. As time went on we domesticated animals as a food source and planted crops.  This allowed us to stay put in one place and not have to constantly be on the move hunting and foraging. For many years, the diet of those domesticated animals was still primarily grass.  Things were good, but fast forward to today.

Now we have in many instances cattle packed into feedlots and fed grains, mainly genetically modified corn. Their highly evolved digestive tract was never meant to thrive with just grains, and certainly they were never designed to live in confined areas - shoulder to shoulder at a trough. But that is what we have today. What has suffered is the quality of life for the cattle. More importantly we find that quality of the meat available nowadays is poorer in nutrition and can have a negative effect on our health. This leads into the top 10 reasons why grass-fed beef is superior to conventional grain-fed beef.

  1. Grass-fed cattle are usually free-range, and raised in open pastures, not in unsanitary feedlots. Disease is not an issue on the open range whereas in the feedlot disease can spread quickly. As a result, there is no need for antibiotics; the animals are healthier with better immune systems.  
  2. Grass-fed beef commonly does not contain synthetic hormones. This is a result of the rancher knowing they are raising quality meat and not wanting to taint their product.
  3. The cattle are raised in a natural setting and not fed corn or grains. In today's world the majority of animal feed has been genetically modified. Believe it or not, but research published in 2012 from Caen University in France show that animals fed a lifetime of GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in this case corn, have a much higher rate of cancer and tumors, and have a shortened life span -- this can't be good for us to eat. 
  4. The beef has a higher amount of vitamins and minerals. A study done by USDA and Clemson University researchers in 2009 proves this among many other facts listed below. One example is Vitamin E. Grass-fed beef usually has up to 7 or 8 mcg/gram of Vitamin E compared to 1 to 2 mcg/gram in grain-fed beef.  
  5. Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fats which has been linked to heart disease. 
  6. Grass-fed beef has higher levels of in beta-carotene. 
  7. Grass-fed beef is higher in thiamin and riboflavin (Vitamin B's).
  8. Grass-fed beef has a higher mineral content including calcium, potassium and magnesium. 
  9. Grass-fed beef is a better source for Conjugated Lineolic Acid (CLA). CLA has been proven to improve the immune system and has also been connected with reducing the risk of obesity, cancer and diabetes. 
  10. Grass-fed beef provides higher amounts of Omega 3 fats. These fatty acids are essential for brain function and optimal health. Studies show that grass-fed beef contains up to 7 times the amount of Omega 3s compared to conventional grain-fed beef. 
And while grass-fed beef is a healthier, better choice than its grain-fed counterparts, there is also a difference in taste.  The key here is eating premium grass-fed beef which tastes delicious, in this way we get beef that tastes great and is healthier for us at the same time.

Rich Coffman is a blogger on the front range of Colorado. His favorite source of grass fed beef is Teton Waters Ranch where they raise their cattle on the native grasslands of Idaho next to the Teton Mountains.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

how diet affects winter seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a common mood disorder where people experience depressive symptoms in the winter or anxiety in the summer consistently every year, but maintain a healthy mental state during other seasons. Symptoms of SAD include:
  • Fatigue 
  • Increased need for sleep 
  • Decreased levels of energy 
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Increase or decrease in appetite 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Sadness 
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 
  • Antisocial behavior,  and 
  • Craving carbohydrates 
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called winter blues, summer blues, or seasonal depression affects about four to six percent of Americans severely. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, SAD is four times more likely in women than in men, ten to twenty percent of Americans may have a mild case of SAD, and it usually isn’t found in people younger than the age of twenty.

If you suffer from the above symptoms, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder; however, there must to be a history of these symptoms for a couple years before it can be correctly diagnosed. According to Clinical Psychologist Kathy Hogan Bruen: "There's a difference between feeling down and being depressed. Being clinically depressed means you have more than just a couple of symptoms and they've lasted for more than a couple of days. Before someone receives a diagnosis of SAD, they must experience this consecutively for two years. It's not just 'I feel bad one winter, therefore I must have SAD.' There has to be a history there." If you suspect you have SAD, seek a professional opinion. Self diagnosis is never a good idea.

The exact cause of SAD is unknown. Medical professionals attribute it to any of the following:

  • Lack of sunlight 
  • Increase in melatonin levels 
  •  hormone levels 
  • Irregular brain chemistry 
  • Lack of serotonin 
  • Disruption of our circadian rhythm, or
  • Lack of vitamin D 
Research on Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder continues, but thus far the lack of sun is the most compelling cause since lacking sunlight affects the brain by increasing melatonin while decreasing serotonin and vitamin D levels in the body. When exposed to sunlight, your optic nerve sends a message to your brain to produce less melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that calms the body and allows you to sleep. When the sun comes up your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that induces feelings of wakefulness. When the sun's ultraviolet rays touch your skin, your body produces vitamin D. Vitamin D also helps the body maintain proper serotonin levels. So during the dark winter months you could have insufficient amounts of vitamin D and serotonin, but overly sufficient amounts of melatonin thus the depressive state.

A research project done at the University of Alaska, Anchorage found that “as serum vitamin D decreased, symptoms of SAD increased.” Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Mediterranean Diet Studies such as that of the University of Alaska, Anchorage lead us to believe that SAD can be controlled through diet. More specifically through a diet high in vitamin D which aids in the production of serotonin in the body. Psychiatrist David Mrazek on MayoClinic.com, claims that eating a Mediterranean diet can help.

A Mediterranean diet is a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. With the Mediterranean diet whole grains, healthy fats, fish, and lower amounts of meats can help reduce depression. According to Mrazek this diet can reduce depression by up to one-third. Dietary supplements also help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. In addition to vitamin D, supplements to add into your diet include: omega-3 vitamin B3 vitamin B12 and folate. Fish, and nuts contain high amounts of omega-3 while B-complex vitamins come from oily fish, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Herring, mackerel, salmon and flaxseed are the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include exercise, eating whole grains, using olive oil, eating plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. The diet also calls for the use of herbs rather than salt to flavor foods, enjoying meals with family and friends, limiting red meat consumption while increasing fish and poultry, and drinking red wine in moderation.

In a study by R. J. Wurtman and J. J. Wurtman published in Obesity Research, it was found that consuming foods high in carbohydrates increases serotonin in the brain, which alleviates the symptoms of depression involved with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Excess carbohydrates may; however, cause unwanted weight gain and worsen depression. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders supported eliminating simple carbohydrates from the diet of individuals with SAD, claiming this helped control the depression for a longer period. The consumption of carbohydrates and its effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder continues to be a controversial issue and the center of more studies; however, the Mediterranean diet in considered a low-carb diet, balancing the amount of carbohydrates with a variety of other nutritious foods and is highly recommended.

Kate Hunter is a writer at Everlasting Health Center, Reno’s best vitamin, supplement, herb and health food store since 1995. She enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, and following up on the latest health food news. Katie obtained B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. She is a mother of three and spends her time baking, canning, growing and drying herbs, and reading food labels of course.

Monday, December 3, 2012

on my mind monday 12.3.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies - Our food system is broken/breaking down as corporations pursue ever greater consolidation in the race toward profits. This however squeezes out the farmer and isolates us further from our food. I believe everyone should read this report. It's important that we understand where our food comes from, why costs are rising, and why we need to know our farmer.

Changes ahead for sugar - (starts at 2:40 on the video) US prices 50-70% higher than the rest of the world? Wow that's a huge jump. Combined with the fact that processed sugar can be as much as 4 times more addictive than cocaine and we have a very expensive health crisis on our hands (in more ways than one). We could all pay attention to the label and eat less sugar.

eFarmony - I love this idea...putting those with land together with those who want to farm it. Sounds like a win-win-win with consumers getting more fresh local produce.

Allergic to spice - We hear a lot about the common food allergies, dairy, peanuts, shellfish, etc. We also hear about food sensitivity conditions the severe celiac disease to a less harmful but still challenging lactose intolerance (a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase). But many people tend to forget that food sensitivities can be to any food substance. While food sensitivities are different than a life-threatening allergy, they are no less severe for their impact on health. If you think you have food sensitivities consider working with a nutrition professional to see how you can identify what may be overwhelming your system.

Horrible Diet Ideas - With the New Year just around the corner many people begin to resolve to lose weight. Unfortunately many of them are seduced by fad diets and celebrity endorsements. Just because someone is famous does not make them an expert on nutrition. Many of these ideas are highly dangerous. If you want to lose weight it needs to be done in a healthy, supportive fashion.

Asparagus for blood sugar control? - Like asparagus? It turns out that asparagus may be useful in stabilizing blood glucose levels. More and more readily available at the grocery store it's tasty and easy to cook.  I love the fact that I've got some in my garden, we just finished moving it to it's new dog-free garden bed. Now to wait and see if it transplanted well.

Looking for a good gentle yoga routine?  Here's one I like that's very relaxing and, most importantly, reminds you to breathe deeply.



What am I reading this week?  Truthfully, nothing because I'm still busy at work on my book, The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what's really in your food.  Want to learn more about the book?

Head on over to Facebook and join The Pantry Principle page.  You'll be able to stay in touch as I start posting healthy tips and news articles.

Friday, November 30, 2012

puppies spells stress relief

It's that time of year for many students.  Exam time.  And because it's the end of the semester that means final exams.  This tends to bring high levels of stress, late nights fueled by far too much caffeine, and poor eating choices.  For those who have students in their life here are a few strategies that may help with stress reduction.
  1. Know your stressors - recognizing when we are stressed is a big piece of the puzzle.  We can then be proactive about it by engaging in stress-relieving activities
  2. Stay hydrated - when we are dehydrated that simply causes physical stressors as well.  Drink water to stay hydrated, not caffeinated beverages.  Caffeine has been known to increase anxiety and to raise blood pressure, not good combinations for a stressful situation
  3. Eat well - make sure to not let your blood sugars dip out of control.  When this happens we are more likely to binge eat, especially on sugars, which can further destabilize blood sugar.  Having small snacks that are high in protein such as raw nuts, or delicious crunchy veggies with hummus are a great way to help avoid the munchies later in the day.
  4. Sleep - the temptation when we are stressed about impending deadlines is for us to pull an all-nighter.  This can actually impair cognitive function.  When we are well-rested we are better able to handle stress.
  5. Breathe - when we are stressed we often start to breathe shallowly.  This is usually an unconscious shift.  By stopping to take deep, slow breaths we help to oxygenate and we also force ourselves to calm down, even if just for a little while.  Try it now, take three long slow deep breaths, you'll be amazed at how different you feel.
  6. Try whole body relaxation - this is a process where you tense and relax the muscles in your body.  The entire process takes just a few minutes but can help to let go of a lot of stress.  Typically the pattern is to start by tensing the muscles in your feet, counting to five, and then relaxing them.  Then repeat this for the calves, thighs, buttocks, and so on all the way up the body to the face.  
  7. Take a laugh break - laughter is good for us.  Watching a funny video on YouTube, telling jokes with a friend, or reading something humorous can all help to relieve stress. 
Some colleges, in an effort to help with stress relief, have even started puppy rooms where students can come and hang out with puppies to get a little fur-ball therapy.  The animals run the gamut from certified therapy pets to animals borrowed from a shelter.  The movement seems to be growing as each year around this time there are more articles about more schools who are doing it.  Some schools, such as Yale, apparently even have a therapy dog program where students can borrow a dog from the library for 30 minute sessions.

Figuring a picture is worth a thousand words, cute pictures make us smile, and that smiling is very stress-relieving I wanted to share the following.


These puppies are currently living with my friend Larry who rescued their pregnant mother from the animal shelter so she would not have to give birth there.  He has taken on the commitment to raise them and find foster homes for them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

hidden health costs of cheap food

Today's post is a testimonial of sorts focusing on whole food.  Written by Tracy Falbe, she shares her story and her journey toward health accomplished in part by transitioning to a low process, low chemical nutritional plan.

The value of food is not solely determined by the money paid for it. The real measures are the food’s nutritional value and its impact on your health.

My whole life I always caught colds and the flu easily. Then about two years ago I switched to eating local naturally raised eggs, poultry, and meats. No more hormone-dripping antibiotic-oozing confined animal meat for me. I began to grow a great deal of my own vegetables which I now enjoy through the winter with canning and freezing. These vegetables grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and often from heirloom stock contribute to my health. Since I got serious about carefully sourcing my diet and paying a premium for good food, I stopped catching every bug in the region.  When my husband complained of how many sinus infections he was getting, I convinced him to stop eating at his workplace cafeteria, and he has not had a sinus infection since.

Our immune systems are now more robust because we are eating food with higher nutritional content. Science is beginning to quantify the paucity of nutrients in food from industrial agricultural systems. Data collected and analyzed by University of Texas chemist Dr. Donald R. Davis has revealed some startling declines in crop nutrients over the decades. For example protein in wheat and barley declined 30 to 50 percent between 1938 and 1990. Broccoli now has 66 percent less calcium, in a 2003 analysis, than in 1950.

Large scale agricultural monocultures and business models dependent on chemical fertilizers deplete soils. These fields are stripped of minerals which go unreplaced. Fertilizers generally add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These three elements produce growth and fruiting but do not provide a complete nutrient profile needed for good health. The soil has nothing to give to the plant. Even if a diversity of nutrients still remain in the soil, newer crop varieties bred or genetically engineered to produce higher yields more quickly do not have time to draw in as many nutrients as a slower growing heirloom variety. Often the crop is just growing big but lacking in substance. Time is money and nutritional value is sacrificed for speed.

The same problem occurs with egg and meat production. Hormones and antibiotics speed the production but at the cost of nutritional quality.

When I was always getting sick, I was suffering from low grade malnourishment that depleted by immune system. My body was lacking the minerals that had been sucked out of the fields long ago. In a grand sense I was feeling the same sickness that is in the Earth that is mismanaged by industrial food systems.

I agree with agribusiness that time is money. Therefore I double invest by spending more time and more money sourcing high quality nutrient dense food. This provides the double dividend of feeling better while avoiding expensive medical appointments and prescriptions. I also get the greater gift of time that is not wasted feeling bad or sitting in some dismal clinic waiting room.

Admittedly it is convenient to malnourish yourself. Fluffed up produce and processed foods made from “high yield” grains are abundant but have lower nutritional value. Our food system is devoted to filling the plate instead of nourishing the body. The cost of cheap food adds up with deleterious effects caused by weaker immune systems. It’s no secret that poor health follows a poor diet. Remember this truth next time you feel like you can’t afford the produce from the local organic or natural methods grower. You’re going to pay somewhere, so start with a nice dinner and see how it goes from there. I expect that you will eventually, as I did, feel better.

When Tracy Falbe is not studying seed catalogs, tending her fruit trees, or shopping the farmers’ markets, she writes novels. Building a business out of her creativity nurtures her spirit as she seeks to find value in her dreams. Discover her hard-hitting passionate epic fantasies at http://www.braveluck.com/.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 4

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here, part two here, and part three here.

But when can we care for ourselves?

I have been asked this question several times and I have an answer. We can care for ourselves now, all the time, and while we care for others. All we need to do is redefine self-care. The most helpful definition of self-care is to consider everything we do for ourselves as self-care. So, for example, the way we eat, sleep, breathe, and walk can all be ways to care for ourselves.

The following two self-care reflections are simple metaphors to encourage us to care for ourselves while we care for others. Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections.

The Dance of Self and Other Care

We need to take care of us while we are taking care of them. We cannot wait until we have some free time or a vacation. We need to care for ourselves now.

We can use the metaphor of a dance to visualize caring for them and us during each day. In a dance, let's say a dance with two partners, the couple steps forward and, then, back - over and over again.

In the "dance" of self and other care, we make choices all day, every day to take care of them and us. One dance step is a movement to help ourselves. The next step is a movement to help them. We can dance through our day!

How will your daily dance steps reflect your self-care?

The Tapestry of Self-Care and Other-Care 

Most information about self-care emphasizes self-care as "taking a break" (getting away from) and "venting" (talking) about the persons in our care. The underlying belief seems to be that we cannot take care of ourselves unless we separate ourselves from the persons in our care.

"Taking breaks" and "venting" can be helpful. However, self-care needs to be an ongoing interwoven part of our lives and our days - similar to weaving a tapestry.

Weaving is an art that intertwines multiple threads to form the whole fabric. Weaving together our self-care with the care of others is also an art. Our focus on both the care of ourselves and others becomes the fabric of our lives. 

How will you weave the fabric of your life to include self-care and other-care?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

Monday, November 26, 2012

on my mind monday 11.26.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Southeast Paying Price For High Antibiotic Use - While overall antibiotic use is dropping, some areas of the country are not dropping as quickly as others.  This is problematic as those areas tend to show higher levels of antibiotic-resistant infections (including urinary tract infections).  It is important to remember that antibiotics should be taken responsibly.  Only take them if you really need them, take them according to the schedule written by your doctor, and finish your entire prescription to ensure that you do not potentially breed superbugs.

Fat blocking soda - Pepsi is at it again.  Trying to make an unhealthy product appear to be something that might be good for you.  Soda is not, is never, a healthy choice of beverage.  Fat blocking soda is just ridiculous.  By adding a dose of what is essentially an ingredient found in laxative Benefiber they are claiming it will block fat and help you lose weight.  My prediction is that this one won't last long.  It's kind of like the 7-up with anti-oxidants which was shut down for making nutrient claims.  Looking for fat blocking foods? Eat fiber-rich foods rather than drinking a chemically concocted, empty calorie beverage.

Edible deodorant - While I will be the first to tell you that many deodorants have ingredients in them which are unhealthy and should be avoided, I'm not a fan of this product. First we don't know that it will work well for everyone as we are all bio-individual and there are no guarantees when it comes to body chemistry. Second I'm not convinced that the ingredients are going to be that great. Instead consider using the EWG's Skindeep - Deodorant List.

Water Conservation - is still in the news. As I've written before it's something we are definitely thinking more about (especially in light of the letter we recently received from our utility district informing us that water rates were going up by 14%). This is an issue that is not going away and I believe will have a profound impact not only on our water but also on our food (we need water to irrigate, wash, cook, etc).  Our big effort right now is looking for ways to get rid of more of the lawn. I'd love to hear any water conservation ideas anyone else has.

Veggieducken - Wow, what is it with us and combined foods? It's certainly not a new concept and is something that's been around for ages, but lately the idea seems to be regaining popularity. The turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken), a cherpumple (a monstrous three cake three pie combination) and now this. I will confess this one could be a WWME food but I'm not sure I'm willing to invest all the time it would take to make one.

I wanted to share this video from my friend Karen who talks for the first time about her personal journey with Crohn's. Thank you Karen for your willingness to share and open up about your health and your condition.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

national cashew day

This November celebrates a rather “nutty” day, the National Cashew Day. While we’re all preoccupied with Thanksgiving planning and holiday preparations, this November 22 takes a moment to celebrate this rather tasty and very special ingredient to many of today’s recipes.

While cashews were once considered to be native to Northeast Brazil, they are said to have found their roots in ancient Africa. Grown for both the cashew seed, what we call the nut, and it's outer coating, the cashew apple (haven’t seen many of these, but they apparently contain five times the vitamin C of the average orange), it is now grown throughout tropical climates, some of the prime sources being the Philippines and Nigeria.  Although less common that other tree nuts or peanuts, some people do have a serious allergic reaction to cashews.

The nut alone isn’t what it’s all about. There is far more to cashews than we think. In some countries, the juice of the cashew nut is a very popular drink, offering plenty of essential nutrients and often considered as a wholesome part of the diet. For medicinal purposes, cashews are renowned for their ability to ward off tooth infections due to the compounds naturally found in them. Parts of the cashew plants are even utilized as a medicinal aid for snake bites (such as the deadly cobra).

So, who decided that November 22 was going to be National Cashew day? Well, no one really knows.  It is believed that this tasty nut has been celebrated as far back as the 16th century.  Over the years, because of its integrity to so many different dishes found worldwide, the cashew gained fame amongst chefs and became a valued item, often appearing in restaurant specials. As its popularity improved during the fall season in America, November was designated a prime time for cashew flavored additions to dishes and today, November 22 has been designated as its celebrated day.

While most often available either salted or chocolate covered, cashews are so tasty that they stand up well on their own in a raw format.  This is the healthiest way to eat them as a mid-day or evening snack to keep your guests preoccupied while they converse with one another. We also find them in trail mixes, a great way to keep us company while traveling on the road.

However, cashews are found in far more places than just our daytime snack packs. When it comes to preparing vegetarian recipes, the cashew has a unique place on the ingredient list. In Kerala cuisine, the cashew is a vital ingredient in the dish known as Avial, which is a thick mixture of vegetables, curd, and coconut as well. Broccoli with garlic butter and cashew is also a very prominent and tasty dish, regardless of preference. Another favored recipe is Coconut Red Lentils with spinach, cashew, and lime, which makes for an amazingly healthy dish that anyone would enjoy. Additionally, cashews are an appetizing ingredient to many sauces, especially for chicken and turkey recipes. Sauces are often thickened by use of flour or other starchy alternatives, but if you’re searching for a new flavor or want to improve the nutritional value of your meal, consider some meaty dishes that utilize the healthy cashew as a saucy alternative. This holiday season, don’t neglect to introduce this fantastically delicious and amazingly healthy nut into your mealtime recipes.

Mark Gomez is owner and operator of Gomez Catering. Gomez Catering which specializes in providing full service, off-premise catering and party planning. With an emphasis on quality, customer service, and style we can help you with any size event but we believe there are no limitations when it comes to food. What lies in your imagination is our goal to create and bring to life.

photo: Midori

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 3

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here and part two here.

Have you ever felt like this (I have!) 

It makes sense to take good care of ourselves, so we can take better care of our family members. But what if we feel trapped? We may be looking at all those people who are not family caregivers. They don’t seem to struggle with self-care! And, then how do we manage this self-care thing, any way! Our family members may seem to need us so much that there doesn’t seem to be time for anything else.

I have two reflections that might help you. I know they have helped me. I call them “No Comparison” and “Self-Care as a State of Mind.” Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections. 

No Comparison

Many of us need to "think for them." In other words, we may need to help people in our care be safe and accomplish multiple tasks. We often need to think about how to do these things for them. "Thinking for them" generally becomes a normal part of our everyday lives.

However, “thinking for them" adds an extra layer of mental activity to our lives. Imagine a day or a week or a lifetime without "thinking for them." No, wait! Whose life would that be anyway! We need to be kind to ourselves. If we compare our achievements to another's achievements, then we need to take into account the extra layer of mental work we do as we "think for them." Often, because we are caregivers, we have accomplished more than most people in our everyday lives.

How will you acknowledge your giving achievements?

"Self-Care" as a State of Mind

If I limit my thoughts about "taking care of me" to just specific actions, then it is like turning on and off a switch: "now I am caring for me" to "now I am not caring for me." For example, "now I am taking time for me" but "now I am washing dishes."

If, instead, my attitude is that I am always doing my best to "take care of me" then I feel more taken care of - by me. I am more aware of how I act in ways that are caring to me.

For example: I am "taking care of me" when I am washing dishes. It's not a vacation, but I care enough for me so that I have clean dishes.

How will you become aware of all the ways you care for you all day - every day?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

Monday, November 19, 2012

on my mind monday 11.19.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Read what's on my mind.

High Riboflavin Linked to Low Lung Cancer Risk - This study was done as part of the Shanghai Women's Health Study, the participants were non-smoking females.  Not sure what the implication is for those who used to smoke but it sure can't hurt to make sure you eat foods high in riboflavin. These include:  venison, yogurt, milk, crimini mushrooms, and spinach.

Rooftop Hospital Farms - This is a great way for hospitals to utilize the space on top of their building, create healthy menus for the patients and staff, and help to contribute to a growing eco-friendly environment.  I can also envision this as a potential park-like area for inner-city patients (those able to be ambulatory), and staff to be able to spend therapeutic time in a green environment.

Fat loss odds stacked against you - It's a never-ending battle of the bulge.  Portion sizes, especially when eating out, are out of control.  Fats and sugars and salts are packed into foods to make them more tempting and convince us to overeat.  It is not in the best (profit-driven) interests of corporations to have consumers who don't overeat -- read overspend on food and then the attendant pharmaceutical/healthcare bills that come along with obesity.  We need to become more aware and more proactive in managing our health and our consumption.

Exercise Your Sperm - Turns out men who exercise not only improve their own health, they also improve the quality of their sperm.  Important for those who want to have children.  Interestingly enough the study found that endurance athletes, such as triathletes, did not have this benefit as they suffered from reduced sperm quality.  Rather it was moderate exercise which promoted the best value of sperm health and hormone levels.

One Can Equals 22 Aerobic Minutes - How hard do you have to work to burn off that cola?  And don't forget about the immune suppressing effects of all that sugar.  Drinking sugar free?  You're still taking in toxic chemicals and damaging your health. Do we really need a "calculator" to tell us that soda is not a healthy beverage choice?

I know you hear me on Facebook frequently encouraging alkalizing. Here's a great video that shows a good explanation of the acid-alkaline balance.  If you're not already participating, sign up or "like" my Facebook Fan Page to stay connection and be part of the conversation.

photo: mconnors

Thursday, November 15, 2012

cranberries: nature's little helper

Cranberries don’t get as much press as they deserve. They might be sour and somewhat reclusive in traditional cooking, but their health benefits go far. Also called “bounceberries”, for their ability to bounce when ripe, these little powerfruits pack quite a bit of nutrition and health benefits aside from their well-known ability to cure a urinary tract infection.

Blocking Bacteria from Sticking Around in your Body 

Proanthocyanidins, or PACs, are a natural component found in cranberries. These condensed tannins inhibit the adhesion of infection-causing bacteria within the urinary tract. Recent research shows that these PACs may act elsewhere in the body preventing other infectious diseases. According to The Cranberry Institute,

     “The adhesion of the different types of bacteria that cause both stomach ulcers, and periodontal gum disease, have been shown to be inhibited in the presence of cranberry, and it is likely that others susceptible bacteria will be found as well [...] Not only may regular consumption of cranberry products help maintain health, but in the process will reduce the number of infections in a given population, and thereby the doses of antibiotics which are needed. It is becoming increasingly clear that a reduction in general antibiotic use also reduces the likelihood of the bacteria becoming resistant to those very same antibiotics, which is a public health problem of global proportions.”

It has been accepted by medical communities worldwide that antibiotics lower immune function in children and resistant bacteria has become a serious issue. Cranberries very well may be to solution here.

Cranberries: Good for your Teeth?

Plaque is simply bacteria that have attached to your teeth and gums. Much like cranberries ability to break up the adhesive purposes of bacteria in urinary tracts, cranberries contain a substance known as a nondialysable material (NDM) that has demonstrated the ability to break up oral bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease. According to Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,

    “clinical trial using a mouthwash containing cranberry [...] showed a two order of magnitude reduction in Streptococcus mutans colony forming units compared with the placebo group (unpublished data). A large percentage of dental caries (cavities) can be attributed to S. mutans.”

Antioxidant Packed Little Disease Fighters

These simple little berries pack a lot of antioxidants in a small space. Cranberries contain more antioxidants than any other common fruits. These antioxidants fight off the free radicals we are exposed to daily by consuming them and removing them from the body, in laymen’s terms. They are believed to fight off heart disease and cancer. Eating cranberries helps the body maintain a healthy level of antioxidants even under high stress.

Cranberries May Be the Fountain of Youth

Research supports theories that aging is caused by free radicals destroying cells in your body. It has been found that antioxidants and other phytonutrients provide protection against these free radicals that cause chronic age-related afflictions including loss of coordination and memory. As said before, cranberries are high in antioxidants. Preliminary studies in animals have shown that cranberries protect brain cells from free radical damage and subsequent neurological damage.

Cranberries are also a rich source of the flavonoid quercetin that has been shown to inhibit development of breast and colon cancers. Drinking cranberry juice has proven benefits to your heart as well by breaking up “bad cholesterol” or lipoproteins. Cranberries have also been known to reduce the bacteria associated with peptic stomach ulcers, benefit the eyes and improve cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy, and prevent kidney stones by preventing the calcium and phosphate from binding together.

Eating Cranberries

High in vitamin C, cranberries support immune function along with providing antioxidant and antibacterial benefits to your body; however, these effects are nearly depleted by the addition of high amounts of sugar. So how can you include them in your diet? Aside from drinking cranberry juice, you can mix them with other naturally sweet fruits or add a zip to your meals and use them like you would lemon. Dried cranberries can be added to an array of common foods including cereal and trail mix or if you just don’t favor the flavor you can always take a cranberry supplement. Other ways to include cranberries in your diet?

  • use them in a vinaigrette
  • throw some on your salads
  • grab some dried cranberries on the go
  • add them in bread  and muffins
  • add them to your spicy meals
  • or even, make a cosmopolitan 
Sauce it Up

You can make some cranberry sauce in ten minutes. Serve this with cottage cheese, yogurt, or ricotta cheese for breakfast or a snack. It’s also good with cheeses and nuts and as we all know, cranberries go great with turkey, but it also compliments a good chicken dinner or pork roast. Here is a recipe for a healthy chutney to accommodate any meat dish or add to your morning oatmeal



Kate Hunter is a writer at Everlasting Health Center, Reno’s best vitamin, supplement, herb and health food store since 1995. She enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, and following up on the latest health food news. Katie obtained B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. She is a mother of three and spends her time baking, canning, growing and drying herbs, and, of course, reading food labels.

photo: Melodi2

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

national caregiver's month - part 2

November is National Caregiver's Month. A time to focus on those who care for others, especially if that caregiver is ourselves. Dr. Vicki Bradley has created Self-Care Reminders for Caring Professionals and Family Caregivers to focus on those very special people. Part one of this series can be found here.

We may need a reminder to encourage self-care:

Most of us who are family caregivers know that when we feel exhausted, grouchy, or sick, then we really cannot care well for our family members. Only when we take good care of ourselves can we truly care well for them. Imagine asking someone to use a broken wheelchair or learn in a schoolroom with no books. When we do not take good care of ourselves, we are offering our family members a broken inadequate caregiver.

Below are two self-care reflections. The first reflection encourages us to think of all the ways we can care for ourselves. The second suggests a simple way to put our self-care into action. Both reflections are adapted from my book, Self-Care Reflections.

Physically-Mentally-Emotionally-Spiritually

One common way to think of our "selves" is to divide the self into four "parts" - the physical (our bodies), the mental (our minds), the emotional (our feelings), and the spiritual (our souls). To care for ourselves well, we need to care for all four parts of ourselves - our bodies, our minds, our feelings, and our souls.

Caring for All the Parts of Ourselves 

Physically - how we move our bodies, eat, and drink

Mentally - how we think and learn 

Emotionally - how we acknowledge and share our feelings

Spiritually – what we believe and how we live our beliefs

What are ways that you care for the parts of yourself?

Implementing Self-Care Ideas

How can we implement self-care ideas? We may have great ideas and wonderful intentions, but we may be unsure of how to make our ideas become reality. It may seem too difficult to do these things.

If someone else asked for our help, we would probably do our best to help them. We can find a way to help ourselves, too.

To take care of ourselves, we can ask the same kinds of questions we may ask about another person who needs help: What do they (I) need? How can I help them (myself) get their (my) needs met?

With practice, we can learn to implement really big and everyday small self-care ideas. Just like we don't give up on others, let's stick with it for us!

How will you implement your self-care ideas?

The mission of Self-Care Reminders is to encourage caring professionals and family caregivers to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others (and we'll be happier, too). Contact Vicki to purchase the book Self-Care Reflections, a set of Self-Care Option Cards, or to schedule a “Filling up Our Wells” workshop.

super (food) sweet potatoes

With Thanksgiving right around the corner the farmer's markets and grocery stores are overflowing with sweet potatoes.  They're so fabulous we just had to do another blog post about them.  Today we have Sydney Gallimore sharing why she loves these versatile, wonderful root vegetables so much and (shhh....) she's even giving us her mom's delicious recipe.

Fall is my favorite season for many different reasons. I love when the trees are bathed in hues of reds and oranges, when the weather cools down so I can wear my favorite scarf, and, of course, fall produce. My favorite fall ingredient is sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes contain lots of awesome health benefits. Here’s a quick list of all the good stuff packed into this delicious little tuber.

1. High in beta-carotene and other carotenoids which can strengthen our eyesight, boost our immunity to disease, and help fight cancer. Not to mention all of those antioxidants are great for fighting off the signs and affects of aging!

2. They’re high in vitamin B6 which can help prevent against heart attacks

3. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which can help ward off cold and flu viruses, and reduce stress. Vitamin C also produces collagen, which helps you maintain your youthful looking skin!

4. Sweet potatoes are also a source of potassium, which helps regulate heartbeat and nerve endings, which can prevent muscle cramps, reduce swelling, and regulate your kidneys.

5. Sweet potatoes have iron, which helps with red and white blood cell production, reduced stress levels, and helps regulate your immune system.

6. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber which is metabolized slowly, so you feel full longer; this may help fight against fatigue and weight gain! Sweet potatoes are a great diet food!

7. One average sized sweet potato contains about 112 calories, 2 grams of protein, and 26 grams of carbohydrates. The sweet potato is a true super food!

My favorite thing about sweet potatoes is how versatile they are. You can scour the Internet and find recipes for sweet and savory sweet potato dishes, and they’re all delicious. Or, pick your favorite potato recipe and simply substitute a sweet potato to increase your health benefits! My favorite way to serve sweet potatoes is in a soup. Here’s my mom’s recipe, which is both sweet and savory, and totally delicious!

2 tablespoons butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks, stalks and leaves chopped separately
2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
1 tart green apple peeled, chopped
1 teaspoon granulated white sugar  [note:  change this to evaporated cane juice crystals]
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
3 cinnamon sticks
3 sprigs fresh Thyme (1 tsp dried)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Sour Cream or Crème Fraîche as garnish

Heat oven to 400˚F
Spread the potato cubes evenly on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Potatoes should be a bit under cooked, not yet tender
Melt the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat
Add onion, celery, sugar, and apple and sauté until soft
Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and thyme and sauté for 2 minutes
Add the chicken stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are completely tender
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender (or in a blender working in batches) until smooth Add the maple syrup and whisk in the cream over medium-low heat, until warm throughout
Season to your liking
Add water or simmer for a bit longer until soup reaches desired consistency
Ladle into bowls and garnish with sour cream or crème fraîche

Sydney Gallimore is content manager for Pippin Hill Farm, a boutique winery & wedding venue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Photos: Wally Hartshorn

Monday, November 12, 2012

on my mind monday - 11.12.12

It's never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here's what's on my mind.

Food: An Atlas - It's an interesting project to map food in a number of different ways; production, distribution, security, and cuisine  Should be fascinating to look at and see where your food is really coming from.

Factory Farms May Raise Blood Pressure - We know factory farms are bad for the animals that are raised there.  Overcrowding and filthy conditions are not good for any living being.  The environmental impact of CAFO's is huge.  Now it turns out that it may not be healthy for people living nearby either.  While the study is small and the results not firm, it points to another reason why CAFO's may not be the best way to raise meat.

Meat Inspections Are Down - And speaking of meat, it turns out that our government is inspecting less and less of the meat coming in to this country from other countries.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is instead relying more and more on those countries to self-report any issues.  Another good reason to buy local and get to know your farmer.

Women Who Exercise Still Sitting Too Much - Whoops, that would include me.  The health results of sitting are known to be bad for us.  The more we sit the more challenges we face to our health.  I try to be as active as possible but when I added up my hours spent sitting, either at work or at home, it came to far more than I thought it did.  Time to bump up the activity program and try to find ways to be more active during the course of a day.

Sports Drinks Overhyped - "There isn't much evidence that sports drinks improve athletic performance."  Truthfully not many people work out enough to need a sports beverage.  Not only that, most sports drinks are filled with garbage ingredients.  Consider drinking water, a great hydrating beverage.  Need electrolytes (and I mean really need them), then try coconut water, a perfectly balanced electrolyte beverage.

If you're going to add more exercise to your routine, don't forget to add in stretching.  And to do stretch properly as demonstrated in this video.



photo:  mconnors